Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Oh No, Rachel Zoe!

Someone in my world mentioned how they love the Rachel Zoe show so I decided to see what all the fuss was about. If you love fashion, it is entertaining, yet stressful at the same time. I actually feel myself tensing up as they struggle through conflict after conflict, whether it's personal drama or some fashion crisis.

The nature of her persona and the fashion industry in general is all about excess and "too muchness" which is great because it is a reality show and supposed to be dramatic. I just wanted to contemplate for a moment how all of this translates into my life and the average woman. I ask myself "Is this excess what women really want?".

I can't get into anyone else's head but I know that I used to not have any problem filling up my two closets in my bedroom and the one in the guest bedroom too, with just my clothes. That was a long time ago in my single days and I don't do that anymore, but I know from peeking into a lot of closets that most women are the same. So to answer my own question, I'm going to say "Yes, women want the excess!" But why? It is an ideal to have as many clothes as possible because that means choices, and even evidence and feelings of prosperity. But, why do we need so much when it's been proven that we don't actually wear all those clothes? What makes us want this many clothes?

I've come up with a couple of ideas that may resonate with you. Maybe you can identify with one of them and start to see the ridiculousness of having so much. I believe with all my heart that simplicity in your wardrobe is the best way. Choosing the right pieces to form a small wardrobe makes your life easier and makes a more refined style for you.

So, where did this concept come from in your life? One easy place to put the blame is that growing up, aren't we ridiculed for wearing the same outfit too often? I'll never forget when I was in elementary school I was at a friend's house and we snuck into her big sister's room to admire her closet. My friend solemnly stated that her sister had enough sweaters to wear a different one every day of the month. I was really impressed! I think little things like this make an imprint on us and it subconsciously becomes a goal. If I could only have 30 sweaters, I would also fold them neatly to display in the top part of my closet. When I was in 7th grade, I remember counting my shoes and how proud I was to have accumulated 72! Even though I didn't understand it then, my goal of excess had been achieved. I don't remember actually being ridiculed for wearing the same clothes, but apparently I learned fast as evidenced by the 72 pairs of shoes.

It doesn't end after school though. My first job out of college, the receptionist told me that she noticed when women wore the same pants or shirt in the same week. I was appalled even then and realized that I was being "watched" by the reception fashion police. Who wants to be subject to the scrutiny of others because of something so silly? It's an easy enough problem to remedy, so we fill our closet with a multitude of options.

So when I'm watching the Rachel Zoe Project, I see her with all the designer labels, and her 10 suitcases when she travels, and don't feel the slightest bit of envy or desire to be that way. In fact, it makes me feel weighed down just to imagine having all those things in my home and feeling like I have to travel so heavy.

I know she is a stylist and she has a special exception to having lots of clothes, but I'm just saying that a lot of women are the same, even if not to that extreme. Do you have a friend with a lot of clothes and you feel a pang of jealousy at her wardrobe? Does the feeling of not enough send you straight to the mall to buy more?

That leads me to the next theory. Maybe you never intended to have a full closet but it is simply a direct result of constant shopping. I've always said that shopping is the national pastime and your closet displays the fruits of your labor. Shopping is a social activity, therapeutic, and makes us feel we are accomplishing something. It's so nice to go to a store and buy into their style. Somehow being in a certain atmosphere and buying those clothes makes you feel like you will replicate that feeling at home. Once you get home, you realize that it didn't work. Maybe the clean, airy feeling doesn't translate to your cramped closet.

As always, I'm writing this to make myself and you consider your wardrobe because that is what I love to talk about! If I can make you see that there is an underlying motivation that maybe you hadn't realized, and for you to change your behavior, then my work here is done. I know that shopping and excess in all parts of our life, but specifically in our closets it is out of control. We spend so much time, energy and money filling up our closets when it isn't necessary.

I stopped caring about the "fashion police" a long time ago, thankfully! I don't have two closets full of clothes anymore but I am constantly still paring down and trying to simplify. Now that we've talked about the one extreme, I have two examples of the opposite point of view for you to consider. Two separate projects designed to make people see that they don't actually need as many clothes as they think.

The first is called Six Items or Less. It is an experiment to wear only six items out of your closet for a month. You can visit the website and see how it went for these people. I can see that it was definitely a challenge and some didn't choose well, but in the end I think the point was made. It actually causes more stress and annoyance having too many choices in your wardrobe.

The other one is called the Great American Apparel Diet and you can read about it here. This one stems from combatting shopping addiction and I think also an environmental perspective. I love challenges like this!

Where are you in this? Are you looking to streamline your crowded closet? Do you aspire to have excess inspired by shows like Rachel Zoe Project? Has your wardrobe already been edited to the bare bones? Would you be interested in a challenge like Six Items or Less or the GAAD? I know for me, after my Nordstrom Anniversary Preview, I've been off shopping like I had poisoning from it. I've been contemplating my own challenge but it actually just happened and wasn't challenging at all.

Pic from here.


Stephanie said...

This is such a good post that I don't know where to start. I'll say that growing up, a big wardrobe was prized and there was definitely peer pressure to have one. My mom always had a closet stuffed with clothes and still does. When I was in high school, I had a big walk in closet, the biggest closet in my life and I felt the need to fill it. I think the trend to have really big closets is part of the problem. People are uncomfortable with empty spaces and like to fill them. Now that I have a tiny closet, I have to keep a small wardrobe.

I agree that shopping is a national sport and something we as women do for fun without regard to actual need.

As I watch Rachel Zoe, what I notice about her style are her accessories. I don't pay much attention to the actual clothes because to me, they are interchangeable, she does a lot of jackets, tall boots, but what I find unique is her excess with accessories and to me, she could wear the same thing over and over again but change up her accessories and she would still be interesting. But I agree, her packing is out of control when she travels!

It's a hard and expensive lesson to finally learn that a simple wardrobe is best. I have wasted so much money on unflattering clothes over the years.

The Closet Therapist said...

Stephanie, You are such a sweetheart! Thanks for all your comments. Sometimes I think that having a small closet would be borderline or worst nightmare and blessing in disguise. Want me to do a feature on yours?

Adrienne Shubin said...

Love this post! Really love it.

I had to laugh about the 72 pairs of shoes. I used to brag about all the clothes I had to my friends at school. I remember going through my closet when I was 12 or 13 and actually counting how many shirts, skirts, pants, etc. I had. Then running to my mother and reciting all the statics. I though she would be impressed but instead she was disappointed in my shallowness. I remember feeling shame but confusion, too. Wasn't owning lots of stuff something to be proud of?

I used to never, ever wear the same thing twice in one week. Even as recently as a couple years ago, I thought that was a huge faux pas. Now, I don't hesitate to do so, maybe just changing accessories as Stephanie mentioned. If I took the time to find a get-up that looks good on me and I feel confident in, why shouldn't I wear it over and over again?

I am fascinated by that "six items" thing. It's been getting a lot of press lately. I think it's a great exercise for an over-shopper, but it is extreme. I wonder if it backfires and causes some people to become even more compulsive about shopping - kind of like a crash diet.

Thanks for the thoughtful and entertaining post!


Sara said...

As usual, your words inspire me to take action. So I did. I removed a couple more pairs of pants and shirts from my closet. Maybe I'll remove some from Kevin's closet too before he returns!
Thank you for the inspiration and keep blogging.

Fiona Ferris said...

I'd love you to do a feature on Stephanie's small wardrobe!

You're right that reality shows have to involve drama, that's what keeps people watching.

Imagine a reality show involving one of us. It would probably not make compelling viewing. Just serene people living a simple life, doing a bit of decluttering for fun.

I personally would love to watch a reality show with that premise - someone simplifying every part of their life.

I can't get over 72 pairs of shoes when you were at school. That's huge!

the gardener's cottage said...

well i would just like to say that i loved this post and i appreciate all the effort that went into writing it.

i'd rather have my eyes poked out than watch rachel zoe. going by the pic for this post i have to ask, is this fashion? not in my opinion. but jackie is my hero.

next, i went all through catholic school with the same uniform and i was prob the only one who loved it. well, i never remember my sisters complaining either. we had 2 black and white small houndstooth checked skirts, 3 white peter pan collared shirts and a red sweater. black and white oxfords. a few playclothes and 1 or 2 sunday dresses. that's it. i never felt deprived because that's what everyone else had too.

i think stephanie is right about the size of closets and our desire to fill them up. i'd add the size of houses too.

i'm going right over and check out these 2 sites you mention. i've been working on a post about a minimal wardrobe so i'm really interested.

thanks again for all the effort you put into writing this.


BODECI body said...

I have been on a mission to not purchase clothing until I pay off all debt (except my mortgage).

I have pared down what I have and can pare down more. I am really trying to convince myself that I need a new jacket and knee high boots for Fall. Why?

You are so on it! Consumption to what end?

Great post!

Heather said...

The closet I am working towards is one filled only with the things I truly love and that love my figure. : ) I have an addiction to shift dresses, kitten heels and sandals, but they work in almost every situation in life, from work to play. I realized I do not need a closet full when I wear every single thing and love every single item.

Jackies, Audrey, Kate- they all kept it simple yet looked for elegant, comfortable and happy. Most of all, they looked like themselves. Even a packed to the rim closet can't do that for you it your are not happy with what you have.

Lisa said...

You've just validated my thoughts on excess in the closet. I look at people like Ms. Zoe and think "where do you store all of this stuff and isn't it a bit overwhelming?". Thank you for making me feel my thoughts are valid: it is TOO much stuff.

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